In this June 12, 2018 file photo, US President Donald Trump, right, meets with leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong-un on Sentosa Island, in Singapore. (EVAN VUCCI / AP)
WASHINGTON/SEOUL - The Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) leader Kim Jong-un may change his views toward US President Donald Trump if he continues making "inappropriate, dangerous" comments, a senior Pyongyang official said on Monday, calling him an "impatient, old man."
Kim Yong-chol, a senior DPRK official who was instrumental in arranging a failed second summit between Kim Jong-un and Trump, said the United States was ignoring a year-end deadline set for Washington to soften its stance in stalled denuclearization talks.
"We have nothing more to lose," he said in a statement carried by state news KCNA.
Trump said on Sunday Kim risks losing "everything" if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the DPRK said it had carried out a "successful test of great significance."
"Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore," Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.
"He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November," he said.
"North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, has tremendous economic potential, but it must denuclearize as promised," Trump said on Twitter
DPRK's state media KCNA reported earlier on Sunday that the DPRK had carried out a "very important" test at its Sohae satellite launch site, a rocket-testing ground that US officials once said the DPRK had promised to close.
The reported test comes ahead of a year-end deadline the DPRK has imposed for the United States to drop its insistence on unilateral denuclearization. Pyongyang has warned it could take a "new path" amid the stalled talks with the United States.
"North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, has tremendous economic potential, but it must denuclearize as promised," Trump said on Twitter.
The DPRK is also referred to as North Korea.
In its report, the KCNA called it a "successful test of great significance" but did not specify what was tested.
Missile experts said it appeared likely the DPRK had conducted a static test of a rocket engine, rather than a missile launch.
"If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it isn’t already," said Vipin Narang, a nuclear affairs expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.
"This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year."
Tensions have risen ahead of a year-end deadline set by the DPRK, which has called on the United States to change its policy of insisting on Pyongyang's unilateral denuclearization and demanded relief from punishing sanctions.
On Saturday, DPRK's ambassador to the United Nations said denuclearization was now off the negotiating table with the United States and lengthy talks with Washington are not needed.
"The results of the recent important test will have an important effect on changing the strategic position of the DPRK once again in the near future," KCNA reported.
Asked in a CBS "Face the Nation" interview if the DPRK might be preparing to resume nuclear tests, US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said that "would be a mistake on the part of North Korea."
Pyongyang's last nuclear test, its sixth and most powerful, took place in September 2017.
"It doesn't end well for them if they do.. If North Korea takes a different path than the one it's promised... we've got plenty of tools in the toolkit," O'Brien said on Sunday.
DPRK's recent "important test" is the latest in a string of statements and actions from the DPRK designed to underscore the seriousness of its year-end deadline
RETURN TO CHARGED RHETORIC
Recent days have also seen a return to the highly charged rhetoric that raised fears of war two years ago.
In 2017, Trump and Kim famously engaged in a war of words, with Trump calling Kim "Rocket Man" and the DPRK calling Trump, now 73, a "dotard."
On Tuesday, Trump once again called Kim "Rocket Man" and said the United States reserved the right to use military force against the DPRK. Pyongyang, in response, said any repeat of such language would represent "the relapse of the dotage of a dotard."
The test is the latest in a string of statements and actions from the DPRK designed to underscore the seriousness of its year-end deadline.
The DPRK has announced it would convene a rare gathering of top ruling-party officials later this month, and on Wednesday state media showed photos of Kim taking a second symbolic horse ride on the country's sacred Mountt Paektu.
Such meetings and propaganda blitzes often come ahead of major announcements from DPRK's authorities.
While the DPRK has not specified what its "new path" could be, observers have suggested the launch of a space satellite is a possibility, allowing Pyongyang to demonstrate and test its rocket capabilities without resorting to overt military provocation such as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch.
Kim Dong-yub, a former Navy officer from the Republic of Korea who teaches at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said the DPRK may have tested a solid fuel rocket engine, which could allow the DPRK to field ICBMs that are easier to hide and faster to deploy.
"North Korea has already entered the ‘new path’ that they talked about," he said.
Trump told reporters in June 2018 after his first summit with Kim that the DPRK had pledged to dismantle one of its missile installations, which US officials later identified as Sohae.
Shortly after that summit, analysts said satellite imagery showed some key facilities at Sohae being dismantled.
However, in the wake of the second summit between Trump and Kim earlier this year, which ended with no agreement, new imagery indicated the DPRK were rebuilding the site.
"Remember this is at the site that was supposedly dismantled as a 'denuclearization step,'" Narang said. "So this is a first step at 'renuclearizing.' Reversible steps are being...reversed."
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